You don’t always see veteran coach handing the reins to any rookie when the game is on the line.
But NLEX coach Yeng Guiao isn’t just any other coach and Kiefer Ravena isn’t just any other rookie.
Meralco learned that the hard way on Friday when the fiery mentor gave his super rookie the key to make the game-winning plays in the Road Warriors’ 87-85 victory over the Bolts.
“I had no hesitation setting those plays for him because I know he will make the right decisions,” said Guiao.
Ravena did make his coach look like a genius, repaying that faith with ballsy plays in the final minute.
The 24-year-old guard first drilled a huge three-pointer over Nico Salva to push NLEX up, 83-82 with 43.2 seconds remaining.
However, Ravena almost turned into a goat after he fouled Chris Newsome with 15.3 ticks left, allowing the and-one play which knotted the score at 85.
“It was a defensive lapse on Kiefer’s part,” Guiao admitted. “Kiefer and Newsome were involved in those key plays. We had a foul to give, and he could have given that foul, but that’s the way it goes.”
Luckily, Ravena had the guts to step up to the plate in those waning seconds and he atoned for his miscue with the game-winning turnaround jumper over Newsome with 0.9 ticks to spare to cap off an amazing fightback from the Road Warriors.
“Kiefer just made the big shots like a veteran, like somebody who’s a 10-year veteran in this league,” the mentor said of Ravena, who finished with 21 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. “Whether he made those shots or not, I would not have faulted him for the decisions he made.”
Guiao knows that close finishes like these, especially this one which gave him a glimpse of how big the neophyte’s heart is, could only be beneficial for the rookie and the team moving forward.
“It’s a learning experience for him,” he quipped.
Guiao, though, couldn’t stop himself from praising the second overall pick in the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft, saying: “The way he played today, he played better than most veterans would play in that situation.”